Mosque attacks spark outrage, fuel concern over Islamophobia

People gather at a vigil to mourn for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand, at Washington Square Park in Manhattan, in New York City, New York, U.S. March 15, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 March 2019

Mosque attacks spark outrage, fuel concern over Islamophobia

  • London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the city’s Metropolitan Police force would be visible outside mosques
  • One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack

BRUSSELS: World leaders expressed condolences and condemnation Friday following the deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand, while Muslim leaders said the mass shooting was evidence of a rising tide of violent Islamophobia.
In a tweet, US President Donald Trump sent “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand.
He wrote that “49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!“
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attacks the “latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia.”
New Zealand police said at least 49 people were killed Friday at two mosques in the picturesque South Island city of Christchurch. More than 20 were seriously wounded in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a “terrorist attack.”
One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car. Two other people were being held in custody and police were trying to determine how they might be involved.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan echoed those sentiments.
“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” he tweeted.
The secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Youssef Al-Othaimeen, said in a statement that the attack “served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia.”
In France, home to western Europe’s largest Muslim community, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner ordered regional authorities to bolster security at mosques as a precaution.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the city’s Metropolitan Police force would be visible outside mosques.
“London stands with the people of Christchurch in the face of this horrific terror attack,” he said. “London will always celebrate the diversity that some seek to destroy.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City is providing extra security for Muslim community centers and mosques. He said he wants the city’s Muslims to know that New Yorkers “truly embrace” them and “have their backs.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians are appalled by the attack and said they remember all too well the sorrow after a Canadian man shot dead six Muslim men in a Quebec mosque in 2017.
“Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest,” Trudeau said in a statement. “To move forward as a world, we need to recognize diversity as a source of strength, and not a threat.”
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo condemned the attacks, in which an Indonesian father and son were among those wounded. Indonesian Muslim leaders expressed anger at the shooting rampage while urging Muslims to show restraint.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said bigotry in Western countries contributed to the attacks on Muslims in New Zealand. In a Friday tweet, he also criticized the West for “defending demonization of Muslims as ‘freedom of expression.’”
Afghanistan’s Taliban movement also condemned the shooting rampage, calling it an “unforgivable crime.”
Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusuf called on the New Zealand government to investigate “the root cause of such terrorism and hand a hefty punishment to the attackers.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attacks a “brazen act of terror.” His office said on Twitter that Israel mourns the murder of innocent worshippers, condemns the assault and sends its condolences to bereaved families.
Jordan’s King Abdullah tweeted that “the heinous massacre against Muslims praying in peace in New Zealand is an appalling terrorist crime. It unites us against extremism, hatred and terrorism, which knows no religion.” Jordan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that one Jordanian was killed and five wounded in the attack.


Protester flees Russia as two others tie the knot in jail

Updated 19 min 25 sec ago

Protester flees Russia as two others tie the knot in jail

  • The protester faces up to five years in prison for throwing a plastic bottle at police
  • Gubaidulin fled the country this week after realizing he could soon be given a lengthy jail term amid an unrelenting crackdown on the opposition

MOSCOW: A protester has fled Russia fearing imprisonment, his lawyer said Thursday, as a jailed demonstrator married a young woman accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
Aidar Gubaidulin, a 26-year-old programmer who faces up to five years in prison for throwing a plastic bottle at police, was among more than a dozen people who were arrested following anti-government protests demanding fair elections this summer.
Gubaidulin fled the country this week after realizing he could soon be given a lengthy jail term amid an unrelenting crackdown on the opposition, his lawyer Maxim Pashkov told AFP.
“This decision did not come easily to me but the events of the last few days left me no choice,” Gubaidulin said on Facebook.
“I’ve left the country and will not return anytime soon.”
Gubaidulin, who tossed an empty plastic bottle toward police at a July rally but did not hit anyone, was arrested and charged with mass unrest.
He was later released from pre-trial detention and eventually charged with threatening to use violence against police.
Pashkov said Gubaidulin decided to leave Russia after a court this week upheld the conviction of fellow protester Konstantin Kotov, who had been jailed for four years over peaceful protests.
“This affected him very much,” Pashkov said.
Meanwhile in a bittersweet development, Kotov, 34, married a 19-year-old suspected extremist, Anna Pavlikova, at Moscow’s infamous Matrosskaya Tishina jail, said Kotov’s friend and fellow activist Alexei Minyailo.
Along with several other people Pavlikova, then aged 17, was arrested last year and charged with creating an extremist organization and seeking to overthrow President Vladimir Putin’s government.
Her health deteriorated in jail and she was later placed under house arrest.
“Justice failed them, Kostya will soon be sent to a penal colony but love will triumph anyway,” Minyailo, who attended the wedding, told AFP, using a diminutive to refer to his friend.
Minyailo himself spent two months in pre-trial detention after the protests but was released after a solidarity campaign.
Overall six people including Kotov received jail terms of between two and five years over the opposition protests over elections in Moscow which were seen as unfair.
Under pressure from supporters the authorities made a few concessions, including releasing from prison actor Pavel Ustinov after he was jailed for three-and-a-half years and giving him a suspended sentence instead.
But as the wave of protests for the most part died down, the authorities once again began to tighten the screws.
This week, investigators announced five more detentions of protesters.
The latest arrests brought the number of people awaiting trial in jail to seven.
Tens of thousands of people rallied in Moscow this summer after authorities refused to allow allies of opposition leader Alexei Navalny to stand for city parliament in September elections.
Scores of Kremlin critics have fled Russia in recent years amid an increasing crackdown on dissent.